I wanted to find out a bit more about our new tutor Liz Tapper who will be teaching Embroidery at Butterfly Bright, Liz has a wealth of knowledge and experience in a variety of techniques that she is very keen to teach to others! Read our interview with her to see for yourself…
Q. How old were you when you started to sew and who taught you?
A. I started to sew when I was about 7 years old, just on squares of Binca canvas with perle, working different decorative embroidery stitches. My mother had done embroidery at teacher training college and so she started my interest off, though I’ve always been interested in making things! I progressed onto cross stitch kits and hand quilting.
When I was about 15, my mother and I went on an embroidery holiday in France, learning how to embroider our own Bayeux Tapestry horse and soldier. I then did a short embroidery course back home which covered blackwork, Goldwork and pulled thread.
By this time I had quite a varied portfolio of embroidery techniques and applied to the Royal School of Needlework’s apprenticeship, based at Hampton Court Palace. I was accepted with only five other student onto a three year course covering many traditional hand embroidery techniques, as well as upholstery, vestment making, box construction and tassels. The first two years were spent learning these techniques with termly assessments, with the final year spent in the workrooms learning about the conservation, restoration and cleaning of antique embroidered textiles. We worked hard – with four weeks off a year (unlike university students!), full days of 9am-5pm and homework too.
Q. Which other artists do you admire
A. In the public eye, I admire the work of Chloe Giordano, who embroiders small intricate, and very life like, animals using sewing thread and split stitch. She’s self taught, though she did train to be an artist. I also admire very much all the whitework embroiderers of the past – their work is so detailed and time consuming, but not very appreciated today, neither for the detail nor for the time it took. It’s a pity that a tally of the hours was not also stitched onto the completed work.
Q. What single piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to learn embroidery.
A. For anyone who would like to learn embroidery, but perhaps is a bit daunted by a particular technique, remember that nothing is hard when it’s broken down into little steps. Goldwork can look very daunting, indeed it can be fiddly, but a stunning piece of work can be created easily with only a few different types of metal thread, most of which are only couched down. I forget how to work different stitches too sometimes – there are so many – but I have lots of lovely books to prompt, guide and inspire me!
Q. Which is the hardest technique and why?
A. The hardest technique for me is appliqué. It’s not hard in its own right, but personally, I don’t like the effect it creates. I prefer my embroideries and textiles to be more detailed and delicate than I can achieve through appliqué. Saying that, I was commissioned to embroider a Christmas scene recently and I did include appliqué for the ground and a star – maybe I’m coming around to it a bit more…!
Q. What is your favourite technique and why?
I love antique whitework and lace – whether on christening gowns, tablecloths, blouses, napkins and have a growing collection. Following on from that, my favourite technique is probably pulled thread. This is a whitework technique where the thread in the needle pulls the evenweave fabric to create different lacy patterns. It gives a beautiful finish, equally effective white on white, or white on a natural linen. It lends itself well to these neutral colours. If it were to be used with other colours, such as blue or red, the colour would become the focal point, not the pattern. It is hard to choose a favourite technique though, as I enjoy lots of different techniques – blackwork also creates lacy patterns on the fabric, using the contrast of black thread on white fabric, without the fabric being pulled; metal thread work is just wonderfully shiny and reflective; with silk shading, a lifelike image is recreated with your needle….too much choice!
Liz will be teaching the following sessions with more to be added at a later date: